Manuel Locatelli Could Solve A Problem For Liverpool

I remember Manuel Locatelli bursting onto the football scene as a youngster for AC Milan. He always looked like a very intelligent and technical midfielder, so I was surprised when The Rossoneri decided to sell the midfielder to Sassuolo back in 2018.

It hasn’t come as a surprise that the twenty-three year old has since flourished at Sassuolo. His performances for the Neroverdi saw him selected for The Azzurri, where he helped Roberto Mancini’s men to their Euro 2020 triumph this summer.

The Lecco native has now been linked with a host of top clubs, all vying for his signature. One such illustrious name is that of Liverpool Football Club (Source Daily Mail).

It is a deal that could make sense, the player’s current contract has a £34m buyout clause inserted in it (Via Bleacher Report) and The Reds are on the lookout for a new midfielder after Gini Wynaldum’s departure during this off-season.

With all that being said, Serie A giants Juventus seem to be favourites to land Locatelli, according to Fabrizio Romano Via HITC.

But if Jurgen Klopp were to make a move, he’d be getting a fine player indeed.

The German likes to see his side in possession and be efficient when they have the ball. Manuel would certainly fit into that style of play.

I’d imagine Locatelli would offer Liverpool a tad bit more creatively from the engine-room than Gini did as the Italian is a bit of a play-making number eight type.

The Italian international is also great at covering every blade of grass as he possesses the ability to run and run. That’s both in offensive and defensive areas of the pitch.

As well as being assured whilst on the ball, the midfielder also has the vision and craft needed to create chances for his forward thinking teammates. He can play the easy on the eye tidy passes or the get the fans out their seats wonder balls, his passing ability is certainly a major strength he has in his locker.

Last season, Locatelli secured an 88% passing success rate and made around 1.1 key passes per game too (Stats – Whoscored). No player at Sassuolo could better Manuel’s average of 2.4 tackles per league outing!

Being able to get your foot in and winning the ball back is definitely an attribute Klopp admires in a footballer. The fact Sassuolo like to press teams will also see Locatelli fitting in perfectly if he were to make that move to Anfield.

He can also venture forward and grab a goal. He netted four times for his club and twice for Italy at the Euros.

The player himself seems to believe his time with special time at Sassuolo is going to come to an end this summer, and he has also suggested he may end up playing abroad:

I thank Sassuolo because they believed in me when a lot of people doubted me. However, we are all aware of what will be the best path forward in the summer. It could lead me to another Italian team or to a foreign one.”

Via Cult Of Calcio

Those words should be ringing in the ears of those that head Liverpool’s summer recruitment drive.

In Manuel Locatelli, The Reds would be getting a modern day midfield maestro who is ready suited to shine at the highest of levels!

Nuno Espirito Santo Could Transform Tottenham’s Game

It’s been a turbulent time for Tottenham Hotspur with Jose Mourinho sacked right before a cup final and then the team coming in seventh under caretaker boss Ryan Mason.

Now that it looks likely that star striker Harry Kane will be heading to any one of a number of teams, including Manchester City (Source Metro), new head coach Nuno Espirito Santo faces an even harder task if he’s to steer Spurs back towards the top of the Premier League

However, there is already good news in that Spurs’ second star attacker, Son Heung-min, has signed a new four-year deal with the club (Via BBC) – announced the same day as Kane’s impending departure was revealed. This will save Espirito Santo one headache at least, as Son is easily the club’s next most valuable asset behind Kane and he’ll be vital in – quite literally – achieving the new gaffer’s goals. 

Striking a Scorching Deal 

There’s already speculation about Kane’s replacement, with Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus rumoured to be under consideration when it comes to taking up Tottenham’s spare place on the pitch. The even better rumour is that Jesus is actually part of the £160 million Kane deal struck by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. Whatever the truth, it’s not the best news for Spurs’ head coach – Gabriel Jesus is simply no Harry Kane. 

Yes, he scored 50 goals in 131 Premier League games for City, but he was often brought on as a sub for Sergio Aguero. Yet if anyone can ensure this young player grows and thrives at Tottenham, it’s Espirito Santo. This potential sort-of-swap deal could prove interesting, given that the two teams will face each other in their opening game of the season. City, here at Space Casino, are heavily favoured to win that game, showing the task Nuno has. 

Can Santos repeat his Wolves wonder years? 

But with the Portuguese boss at the helm and odds suggest Tottenham are definitely in with a chance. After all, this is the man who took a lacklustre Wolverhampton Wanderers to new heights, beginning his contract in May 2017 and voted Manager of the Month by that November after Wolves scored thirteen goals to win all four of their games.

After six years in the wilderness, Wolves again reached the Premier League thanks to Espirito Santo’s leadership and finished seventh in the 2018/19 season – their highest rank in nearly two decades. He then led the team to the UEFA Europa League, the first time they’d reached it since 1980/81. 

Now Nuno Espirito Santo is tasked with leading Tottenham Hotspur into a brighter new era, and he’s got his work cut out, especially with Kane’s mooted exit.

It’s widely anticipated that he’ll favour a 3-4-3 line-up as he reshapes the squad and starts the fight to climb back up the Premier League table. After some shambolic defending last season, this area is going to be top priority for the new coach with whispers that Argentine Cristian Romero will be signed up (Source Sky Sports). A favourite of Espirito Santo’s at Wolves, Irishman Matt Doherty, is likely to continue as right wing-back and French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will keep his place after nearly a decade with the club. 

We know who’s definitely leaving, who might be going and can have a good guess at who the new faces will be.

Can the great Nuno Espirito Santo turn Tottenham’s fortunes around? Only time will tell.

Celtic Board Need To Answer Questions Regarding Poor Summer

Celtic have an endured a poor start to the season.

Ange Postecoglou has come in and the new manager will now know what a massive job he has on his hands.

Yet the Aussie coach shouldn’t be the one that has to answer all the questions from the media about where the blame lies because he’s not at fault for what has been a woeful summer thus far.

If you fail to prepare then you are prepared to fail. Year in and year out Celtic have struggled to prepare for a new season. Already this term they are out of the Champions League and have now lost their first Premiership game of the campaign.

Getting Ange in was a long process, with Eddie Howe obviously the Celtic hierarchy’s first choice. Yet no matter if it were Howe or Postecoglou who was to become the new gaffer, the recruitment drive should’ve been in full swing before the appointment was confirmed.

Everyone knew this was going to be a huge transfer window for the Hoops. Kristoffer Ajer has made his expected departure as has Olivier Ntcham (The Herald). Yet the board have been slow in finding replacements. You’ve got to expect Odsonne Edouard will be next out the door but again will the Celtic fans have to wait for him to officially leave before they see a new striker coming in later on in the window?

Last season Celtic were pretty hopeless for the most part. Their weaknesses were evident to anyone who watched them and that was in defence.

New keeper Vasilis Barkas failed to settle and number two Scott Bain isn’t a good enough to hold the gloves in a long term basis.

The backline has no stars without Ajer there and lack experience with Christopher Julien still on the sidelines.

Swedish centre-back Carl Starfelt has arrived (Source BBC Sport) but only after Celtic’s european loss to FC Midtjylland (Daily Record).

During that disappointing season last year, the Glasgow club had to make use of quite a few loans to strengthen up their backline (Maybe not strengthen). Yet with those average loanees now back at their parent clubs, Celtic have for some reason not brought in players to plug the gaps in their leaky defence.

Even though we can all see where it’s all going wrong at Celtic Park, those in charge of the pursestrings and those in the scouting department (does one exist?) have failed in their duties to oversee the goings on at the football club.

After the loss to the Danes in the Champions League qualifiers, Ange Postecoglou stated:

“I still think it’s my responsibility,” 

“I’m the person that’s been put in charge and if we haven’t got players in obviously I haven’t done a good enough job of convincing people we need to bring people in.

“I don’t say that because I’m some kind of martyr; I just think that’s my responsibility.”

Via BBC

Listen, this has hee-haw to do with Ange and him having to convince his bosses that they need to bring in players. That has been obvious from the outset.

The board have been sleeping at the wheel for a few years now and have been making similar mistakes for at least a decade, especially when it comes to failings in Europe.

Instead of Ange having to come out and take flak from the media, it should be those in the boardroom that have tied his arm behind his back that are coming out and answering the questions that need answered!

If that wasn’t enough, it seems like some fans have had multiple tickets to go back to Celtic Park, while other season ticket holders have repeatedly missed out. This is simply not good enough.

Where’s this sporting director that was meant to be a top priority?

Where’s the new defence?

Where’s the backing of the new manager?

Where’s the professionalism?

It really is time for answers at Celtic Park.

Varane Can Be Real Difference Maker At Manchester United

It seems like just a matter of time before Manchester United announce the signing of French World Cup winner Raphaël Varane from Real Madrid.

The Old Trafford club have actually taken the unusual step of announcing that they’ve reached an agreement with the La Liga giants regarding a fee for the centre-back (Source: ManUtd.com).

I think the move could be a real difference maker and make Man United genuine Premier League title contenders for the up and coming season.

If you look at recent title winners, they’ve been boosted by key defensive signings.

Manchester City were strengthened by bringing in Emerson in 2017and then last term Ruben Dias came in and helped them reclaim top spot. At Liverpool, Virgil Van Dijk was probably the signing that gave the Reds an edge over their main rivals as they won the crown in 2020!

Varane has all the attributes and experience needed to make a similar impact for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.

Raphaël offers plenty in terms of winning mentality. As well as helping Les Bleus to their World Cup glory in 2018, he has won countless medals with Madrid including league triumphs and Champions League trophies.

He would also compliment Harry Maguire at the back. Varane would offer more consistency, pace and intelligence. I feel his presence in the backline would benefit Maguire and get more out of the England international. The French internationalist prefers playing on the right side and that would suit Harry’s style as he likes to play on the left.

Manchester United have really missed having a top, top central defence partnership. I think Varane and Maguire could become the cornerstone that pushes United into genuine contenders.

As well as being pacey, Varane is also able to remain calm in possession and take the ball out of the back. He doesn’t mind getting into physical battles either.

With Real Madrid last term, Varane was very accomplished with the ball at his feet – enjoying a passing success rate of over 89%. Only Casemiro won more aerial battles at the Bernabeu and no player bettered the French internationalist when it came to making all important clearances (Stats from Whoscored).

Some pundits are stating that Raphaël might need time to adapt to his new surroundings, the rigours of the English game and all that! But in truth, I don’t think he’ll need a great deal of time at all. This is a very experienced central defender. In Spain last year, defenders had to deal with more direct crosses than their counterparts did in England’s top flight. If any French city is comparable in terms of weather to Manchester then it’s Varane’s old hometown of Lille, so that won’t concern him either.

He’ll be arriving at Man United as a twenty-eight year old. That should be a player coming in at his peak. He has spent years learning his trade alongside Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Ricardo CarvalhoI really don’t think this move will phase him in any way!

Sir Alex Ferguson was desperate to make the French defender one of his last signings at Old Trafford. The legendary boss believed Raphaël had all the tools needed to become a world-class star and was gutted he missed out on his signature:

“I hurtled down on the train from Euston to Lille to sign the young French defender Raphael Varane,” 

“David Gill was getting into the finer points of the contract with Lens when Zinedine Zidane got wind of this and somehow scooped him up for Real Madrid from under our noses.”

Via Manchester Evening News

Some might see it as fate if Fergie’s star pupil Solskjaer manages bring in one of Sir Alex’s last targets and then that player came in and brought back some glory to Old Trafford.

Arsenal Should Be Checking Out This Brazilian Olympic Star

The Olympics has a history of turning budding footballers into stars… I’m thinking of Ronaldo, Nwankwo Kanu, Carlos Tevez and Xavi who have all flourished at the elite sporting event.

The tournament can act as a shop window for young hopefuls that wish to win a transfer to a top club. The world’s biggest clubs will send their scouts or have them watch live feeds as they look for the next big thing!

With that in mind, I believe Premier League club Arsenal should be watching the goings on in Tokyo this month and keep an eye out for versatile Brazilian Gabriel Menino.

First choice Gunners right-back Hector Bellerin has been linked all summer with a move away from the Emirates. The Metro have reported that Inter Milan have already made an initial offer for the Spaniard.

If Bellerin is to leave during this window, then Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta will obviously want to bring in a replacement.

Menino may only be twenty years of age but he has already won trophies with Palmeiras in his homeland (including the 2020 Copa Libertadores) and picked up ten caps for Brazil’s younger national sides. Neymar has tipped him to become a star (Sport Bible) and others have likened him to world-class full-back Dani Alves.

During that Copa Libertadores triumph, Gabriel was included in the competition’s team of the tournament.

While he can play in midfield, he can excel as a free charging full-back in my opinion. That’s because he has the engine to continually get up and down the right touchline.

When the youngster breaks into the opposition’s half he suddenly becomes dangerous to his opponents backline. That’s because he has a very dangerous right foot and he has the ability to create an inch perfect cross with his sublime delivery. That would suit the likes of Alexandre Lacazette (with his aerial ability) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (coming in from the left flank).

The Palmeiras right-back also plays with that unique samba style, which involves a cheekiness full of tricks and flicks. That will always be a hit with supporters in the stands!

He also has a nice first touch on him, eager to get forward whenever possible and possesses the ability to come inside and use his left foot. The player is not scared to hit a drive from distance.

His former Palmeiras coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo has praised the youngster and stated he has the tools to perform on the international stage:

“Gabriel Menino is versatile, has all the physical and technical qualities to go to the National Team.”

Via Lance.com

With former Brazilian international Edu now doing a lot of the Gunners transfer business in his technical director’s role, then he should have the contacts to make pursuing Menino a real possibility.

It might also help that Arsenal have a group of Brazilian players already based in North London, including fellow Olympian Gabriel Martinelli.

Having the versatility to also play as central midfielder and as a winger will probably suit Arteta as that means he’d be able to add even greater strength in depth to his current Arsenal squad.

If Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy do wish to make good when it comes to Edu’s contacts then they should be keeping a close eye on Tokyo and working on a deal to bring Gabriel Menino to the club right now. Fellow Londoners have already been linked with the player (Source Daily Mail), so it could be a case of getting in there first!

Brentford Should Expect Big Things From Kristoffer Ajer

Celtic have just announced the departure of Norwegian defender Kristoffer Ajer (Source Celticfc.com).

The centre-back has joined newly promoted English Premier League side Brentford for a reported £13.5m fee (From Daily Record). That sees the twenty-three year old becoming The Bees new record signing.

Many in the Celtic faithful will be wondering what if, when it comes to this transfer.

What if the club had secured ten in a row and what if the Norwegian had had another standout season at Celtic Park?

That fee could have been around £18m if not higher.

Up until the Covid outbreak and the collapse of The Hoops last term, Ajer was looking like the next big thing in Scotland’s top flight.

Comparisons with former Celt Virgil van Dijk were maybe a bit strong, Van Dijk is a top world class talent after all. But to be fair to the young Norwegian, no defender has played as effortless well up in Scotland since the Dutchman as Ajer has.

Often Kristoffer seemed comfortable playing in third gear, knowing he could step it up a few more gears in the bigger games if need be.

When you look at how Celtic usually do business, then players like Ajer and Odsonne Edouard wouldn’t have been allowed to stay on for the last twelve months. They’d have probably been sold when they had two years left on their deals, yet the desire to win the ten league titles in a row proved to be the main factor in keeping the talent on for another year and risk losing value on the players.

With Celtic playing so poorly last year, the board were left with players whose value had decreased and who want or wanted in Ajer’s case to leave Glasgow.

Even though Celtic weren’t at their best last term, Ajer wasn’t one of those that completely downed tools.

Kristoffer had to play with multiple defensive partners what with Christopher Julien’s injury and Shane Duffy’s inability to find any form whilst at the Parkhead club!

Then there was issues in Celtic’s goalkeeping department. New boy Vasilios Barkas failed to settle and proved to be inconsistent. Scott Bain is a decent back-up but not a goalie you’d pin your title hopes on. While Conor Hazard was too young to establish himself as a number one. Those issues proved to be another unsettling factor for Celtic’s backline.

Former Hoops boss Neil Lennon also moved Ajer out to right-back on a few occasions and that too seemed to unsettle the centre-back and his teammates.

In aerial battles, Ajer was winning over 3 a game on average. He enjoyed an 88% passing success rate, the highest of any regular defender at Celtic last season. In terms of tackles he was winning around 1.3 and 1.4 interceptions. Plus he averaged 3.4 clearances according to Whoscored.

In his last two seasons, the Norwegian internationalist also looked very handy in the Europa League. Again he was recording passing success rates that were up 80%. On average he was making more tackles and interceptions whilst playing in Europe compared to his domestic stats, showing us that he was able to step up against tougher opponents.

Kristoffer is happy to play from the back and having the ball at his feet. The defender is versatile and fast enough to play as a right-back but he’s certainly more suited to playing as a centre-back. His intelligence, mobility and ability on the ball also means he can fill-in as a holding midfielder if needed. These are attributes that will see him ideally suited to come in and go straight into Thomas Frank’s first eleven.

He may still be relatively young, but he already has plenty of experience to his name. After impressing in Norway with IK Start, Ajer would captain that side as a sixteen year old, he moved to Celtic and would help them to multiple league and cup wins!

Being 6ft5, Kristoffer is very strong in the air and can be a threat in both boxes. He’s also a player that isn’t scared of the big occasions, in fact he seems to thrive in the important games. He isn’t scared to show his passion as he wins challenges that are vital to his team’s cause. That should see him become an instant fans favourite with The Bees support.

Whilst managing Celtic, Brendan Rogers was always quick to praise Kristoffer:

“Kris has made some big steps. He’s only 20 but he’s really dominant,” 

“You think now that when everything comes through the middle of the pitch – he’s going to get his head on it.

“He’s a natural leader as a young guy and is improving all the time.

“He must be able to defend, first and foremost. But if you can build up play as well then you can be critical for the team and how we play.”

“Kris is very comfortable at that.”

Brendan Rodgers 2018 Via The Chronicle

I’ve no doubts that Kristoffer Ajer will raise his standards now that he has moved to the English top flight. He learns quickly and plays to his strengths very well. He’s extremely bright and is someone who continually strives to get better. 

An elegant ball playing defender, who has in my opinion been the best centre-back to play in Scotland since Van Dijk’s departure it would not surprise me to see Kristoffer Ajer being linked with a top six side next summer after the top clubs see him preform first hand in the Premier League.

Brentford may have splashed the cash by their own standards but this move for Ajer could prove to be a bargain in the long term!

2021 – The Summer Of Giorgio Chiellini

You couldn’t separate the Italian defensive duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini this summer at Euro 2020.

Well UEFA managed to do it as the dumped veteran Chiellini out of the team of the tournament in favour of England’s Harry Maguire (Source Uefa.com) . A ridiculous decision if you ask me. Especially when you consider no player at Euro 2020 managed to dribble past the Italian centre-backs.

Throughout his career I don’t think people have shown Giorgio the respect his football has deserved.

He has been at Juventus for the last sixteen seasons. In that time the warrior has won nine Serie A titles, a Serie B triumph and five Coppa Italia trophies. Only twice in those years with the Old Lady did Giorgio fail to make twenty-five or more appearances in a campaign.

With the Azzurri this European Championship win joins the U-19 Euros he won back in 2003. He has amassed 112 caps for the senior national side.

Personally he has won the Serie A defender of the year three times, the team of the year five times and the Uefa team of the year once.

Chiellini is a player that will give his heart and soul for the cause that he’s fighting for, whether it be for Juve or Italy!

He’s an aggressive, tough SOB. Any player that comes up against the Italian will know that they’ve been in a war. He’s not scared to put in a rough challenge, barge an opponent out of the way or as England’s Bukayo Saka found out in the recent final – yank back a nippy winger!

He uses all of his thirty-six years experience to his advantage. That’s why he peaked for Italy this summer, in my opinion. He has been there and seen it all before and knew how the react to all the scenarios that presented themselves.

During the Euros – the central defender won on average 2.6 headers per game, 1 tackle per appearance, 1.8 interceptions and a whopping four clearances per game too!

It wasn’t just the defensive side that he shown, he enjoyed a passing success record that was sitting just above 90% (Stats from Whoscored).

His biggest asset though, for me, was his leadership. Having him beside Bonucci mean that the spine of the team was experienced and they were well versed in what the other was doing. Chiellini would often talk others through games, show a calmness in the difficult situations and always lead by example.

I don’t think it was by chance that the talented Leonardo Spinazzola was given the freedom to attack at will from his left-back position. Azzurri boss Roberto Mancini could trust that veteran Chiellini would be on hand to mop up any potential attacks that could come from that lefthand side.

The Italians feared that they had lost their captain when he hobbled off, during their second group game against the Swiss. He was then rested for the final group encounter before coming back and flourishing in the knockout stages. Again he had the experience to know to stop and not make the injury worse and has looked after himself over the years, which aided in a speedy recovery.

It was refreshing to see a throw back tough tackling central defender flourish during this summer. He was uncompromising in the challenge but always played with a smile on his face.

Giorgio Chiellini would passionately belt out the Italian national anthem and then play with that same undeniable passion. He was a gladiator and a warrior who led his team to glory. He’s always been that way and we really should give his name more respect!

In that vein, here’s quotes about the Euro winning star from greats of the game:

“He knows what he is doing. This is a top defender and a very clever guy.

“I played Juventus with Manchester United a couple of seasons ago, and after the game at Old Trafford, I said something like: ‘These two guys should go to University of Sports and give lectures on how to be a central defender’.

Jose Mourinho – Via Punditarena.com

“Giorgio Chiellini is my heir.”

“Chiellini is a great player and I’m hardly the first to point that out. He is physically strong and still young, so he can achieve great things in the Nazionale.

Fabio Cannavaro – Via Football Italia

“For us, Chiellini is fundamental, also as a point of reference in the dressing room for a young squad. And the moment he steps on the field, you already know that he will give everything.”

Roberto Mancini – Via Goal.com

Grudgingly Admiring England’s Kyle Walker

It hasn’t been easy being Scottish during this summer’s Euros.

Our national team didn’t manage to pick up a victory in our men’s first major final since 1998! Thus we also didn’t make it out of our group.

Our oldest rivals England on the other hand have so far enjoyed a near perfect tournament.

This current Three Lions side have been hard to hate on. They aren’t as arrogant or as self entitled as previous squads.

They’ve got a youthful and exciting side. It has been a pleasure to watch Marcus Rashford become almost statesman like in the last twelve months, the redemption story of Raheem Sterling has been fascinating and it has been great to see a youthful Bukayo Saka take his chances at senior level.

Yet there’s a player there that I thought I could zone in on with my dislike.

Kyle Andrew Walker.

The defender really pissed me off last year!

With the country in the middle of the most severe of all the lockdowns, Walker showed the arrogance of England stars that had played before him by breaking the lockdown rules multiple times.

I was so annoyed by his antics that I wrote a scathing blog slating the player. I said that I believed he had let down both Pep Guardiola and Gareth Southgate and that I thought he’d struggle to regain his bosses trust.

Reports in the British press suggested that he’d never receive a call-up again with England (Source – The Metro). Many a player benefitted from the Euros being delayed by a year, maybe none more so than Kyle Walker.

Now the article I wrote was very much of that time. It was written in the heat of the moment, my wife was working almost nonstop in an ICU ward and I felt Walker’s behaviour was disrespectful. It angered me.

Looking at it now, I still believe he made a huge mistake but many made mistakes by breaking the rules during this pandemic.

To be fair to Kyle, he clearly knuckled down in training and made himself important as Manchester City regained the Premier League title.

He also made it hard for Southgate to drop him from the England squad. At thirty-one years of age, the right-back is now a veteran of this squad.

In this European Championship, for me, Kyle Walker has been one of the stars that have helped England get to their first final in this competition. He has led by example on the field of play.

The right sided defender has played in five out of six in the tournament so far and must be assured of his place in Southgate’s starting eleven for the final. The only game Kyle missed was the 0-0 draw with Scotland. In that outing us Scots won the battle of the flanks!

The semi-final win over Denmark (The Guardian Match Report) showed Walker at his best for England. Keeper Jordan Pickford looked nervy. At various times centre-backs John Stones and Harry Maguire fluffed their lines. Yet anytime the Danes managed to get onto the ball and get in behind the English backline, Walker used his pace and strength to get his side out of any trouble.

The Danish just couldn’t get a foothold down the opposition’s right side. Th England number two just used his ability and experience to repel any attack on his goal.

For me, Kyle Walker should’ve been awarded the man of the match trophy.

It was a leaders performance and it was a fine one at that. One I feel I have to praise.

The player himself has been quick to praise his international manager:

“I think when you put on an England shirt – definitely in the past four years – it means something now.”

The Mirror

That doesn’t mean he was right to break the rules last year and that doesn’t mean I’ll be happy to see him and his teammates win the tournament tomorrow night.

But it means I can salute him for getting his head down and winning back the respect of those that really matter (not me but his managers).

Looking At Spurs And Arsenal Target Takehiro Tomiyasu

Various reports have surfaced linking Bologna defender Takehiro Tomiyasu with a move to North London.

Teamtalk have stated that Tottenham Hotspur are ‘close’ to getting a deal done, while football.london have added a twist to the story by claiming Arsenal are ready to step in and compete for Takehiro’s signing.

So just why would these two Premier League giants be interested in the defender?

At twenty-two years of age, he’d represent a good age to develop under coaches Mikel Arteta or Nuno Espirito Santo. Even though he is still a youngster, the Japanese star is already pretty experienced for his age. He has already played in sixty Serie A games and represented his national team twenty-three times, that’s another tick for potential suitors.

Tomiyasu is also very versatile. He can play anywhere in the defensive backline, as he showed during his thirty-one league appearances for I Rossoblù last term.

He’s a defender that won’t just rush in for the sake of it. The Japan international will judge the situation and read a pass before it’s played and then stepping in and disposing an opponent. That shows us that he possesses high concentration levels and strong in-game intelligence.

The defensive star only picked up three yellow cards last year, again showing he’s smart when timing his challenges. He’s also terrific in the air, last season on average he was winning around 3 headers per league game in Italy.

According to stats website Whoscored: Tomiyasu made 1.5 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions and a whopping 3.3 clearances. He’s a player that sticks to his task, who will cover for any teammates mistakes and try and get himself in between shots and his goal.

Takehiro is very accomplished with the ball at his feet. Again he’s a defender that doesn’t seem to get easily flustered, in or out of possession. His passing success rate of above 80% will be another plus point for visiting scouts. He can read the game well with his interceptions and then take it out of a dangerous position with his unique dribbling technique. He’s pretty nifty and awkward for a player of his size and that can see him beat opponents too. He has quite the engine on him and he always has the willingness to push forward and get back.

Tomiyasu is a player that has shown in Italy that he can be consistently good throughout a campaign. At Arsenal he’d probably come in and look to start at right-back if Hector Bellerin leaves this summer. At Spurs, they’ve had various defensive issues in the last twelve months so he could do a job at centre-back or at right-back depending on what Santo needs from him.

Respected football journalist Fabrizio Romano has reported that Tottenham are in continued negotiations with Bologna regarding the defender and that the player himself would welcome that particular move.

I believe that Takehiro Tomiyasu would fit into the Premier League style and he’d flourish at either club given half a chance. He’d be a player that I’d expect to see improve rapidly if one of those clubs could secure his signature.

Tottenham Could Rediscover Form If They Capture Pjanic

The current stories coming out of FC Barcelona have been dire to read in recent days. Marca are reporting that the Catalan giants will have to cut €200m from their wage bill, if they wish to keep superstar and club legend Lionel Messi.

That could see the La Liga club offloading quite a few names this summer.

One player who could be heading for the exit door is Miralem Pjanic.

Tottenham Hotspur could be an ideal destination for the Bosnian and the midfield star could just be what Spurs are needing too.

New Spurs Director of Football Fabio Paretic wateched Pjanic up close and personal during the midfielder’s four years at Juventus. They would’ve developed a relationship during that time in Turin and that could see a move for the player gain momentum.

If Barca are indeed in dire straits financially, then I can only see them happy to let the player go – especially given his limited appearances of Los Cules last term. The Metro have gone as far as to suggest Barca will give Miralem a free transfer this summer.

When we look at Tottenham Hotspur in recent years, when they’ve been successful they’ve usually had a creative maestro dictating things from the middle of the park. Just look at Christian Eriksen and before the Dane there was Luka Modric.

Having Pjanic in the engine-room could let the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min really flourish in the final third. Spurs missed that majestic spark under Jose Mourinho.

The thirty-one year old is a very classy playmaker. He doesn’t rely on pace, which is a good thing considering he has now entered his thirties. He is intelligent, skilful and very technical.

He possesses the vision to create chances for his forwards and he also understands the need to keep the ball and to keep it moving!

Pjanic can be expertly deployed in the deep-laying playmaker role. He is tenacious and also has the defensive instinct to thrive in that role.

Whether it’s in a deeper role or as a number ten, the Bosnian international is wonderful at creating assists. He sees the game develop early and has the skill to hit key passes at the right time. It’s also well known that Pjanic is extremely dangerous from set-pieces and he has the ability to make late runs into the opposition’s penalty box as he gets on the end of chances and puts them away too.

During Miralem’s time at Juve he was once described by Andrea Pirlo as his potential ‘successor’:

“Miralem is such a player that can change the game when it is needed. He is great and he just needs to keep up like this.”

Via The Sarajevo Times

Now there’s still a few things to be ironed out.

Does Pjanic want to leave Barca? Would he prefer a move back to Italy? Does the new Spurs coaching team see him as the catalyst to get them going again?

For me, I think Tottenham Hotspur should be doing everything within their power to get this move done. I think Miralem Pjanic would thrive in London under new Spurs gaffer Nuno Espirito Santo.

I think he’d definitely become the new maestro that would have the Lilywhite faithful falling over themselves with appreciation. Getting back playing regularly and being seen as the talismanic creative figure would see Pjanic return to form.

The fact the deal could go through without a transfer fee would just be a huge bonus for Spurs.